The day I turned 18 years of age, I began calling my favorite game show, "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" repeatedly. I would watch the show, intently, and the moment Regis would say, "The lines are open," I would begin calling. And calling...and calling.
I wanted to be on the show. I knew I wouldn't be able to physically or emotionally make it through the entire show. I'd faint, pass out, roll over, fall off the chair, not be able to walk up to the podium...I knew the moment the lights hit me, the moment the audience started cheering, the moment the suspenseful music keyed up...I was a goner. That idea didn't stop the dream though.
To be on the show, hopefuls had to call the 1800 number, when the phone lines were open, answer three multiple-choice questions correctly, and they'd enter names into a random drawing. I called and called and called. When I was eighteen, the only phone I could use was the landline telephone because I had very few minutes on my cell phone (bag phone, box phone, rock phone, whatever....it was old school.). So, at 8:01PM, after the hour-long show, I started dialing the number. "No need to remind me the number, Regis," I'd say to myself (I had memorized the number.). I'd call. Busy. I'd call again. Busy. I'd keep calling. Busy. Busy. Busy. One day though, I got through.
The task was simple. Answer three multiple-choiced questions, get them all right, and my name would be entered in a "random drawing" to be on the show. I must admit, the first time, I got so nervous, I answered the first question incorrectly. I tried calling back. Busy. This went on for weeks. No one (not even my parents) human being knew my obsession with "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"
Summer came and went, all the while, I continued my quest for the million dollars. My world was about to change though. It was time for me to leave my parents' nest and venture off to college.
I was a little guy...short, skinny (at the time), sheltered. My most rebellious activity was calling "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" after it was time for me to be asleep. I wasn't socially ready for college, but I was eighteen and ready or not, here I came.
I met my roommate, Jake. He was a nice guy and didn't mind my addiction to WWTBAM. In fact, he wasn't in the room most evenings, so there was no competition for the phone nor hiding my compulsiveness.
My freshman year went well. I remember getting through to the automated version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and I even answered the three back-to-back, nerve racking questions correctly. I just knew my name would be entered in the drawing and selected at random to come to New York. Finals or no finals, school project or not...I was going.
I didn't tell anyone about my name being admitted into the random drawing. I kind of wanted it to be a surprise to all (and me). Also, I wanted to say, "Oh, yeah, right, that one time I called and entered my name...I vaguely remember that." I didn't want people to think I had called over 100 times.
Sophomore year starts and my roommates knew I loved the show. They were (and are) the in-your-face, friendly, loud, obnoxious, roommates that I wish every college kid could have. Jeremy, JoeDavid, Jayson, Josh, Jared...I think all I was missing was a Jingle-Hymer Schmidt...All of their names: J. All of their interests: soccer. My name: B. My interest: Becoming a Millionaire.
They knew when they arrived "home" from practice, that at 7:00, I would have been found on the couch (futon), already fed, with phone in hand. They'd tease me, poke me, throw their shin guards at me, fart on me...you know...normal roommate stuff.
Our suite (That sounds awfully prestigious...let me change that...)...our combining dorm rooms-- had a bathroom separating two living areas. Because we were so cool and liked each other, we decided to move all of the beds (bunk beds) into one room and have a living room on the other side.
8:01, I start calling. All of the Js started playing annoyingly loud music, began to form a mosh pit, opened the door so every Tom, Dick, and Harry could enter...you know the drill. Busy. I dial again. Not busy. I hear a ring. I hear a ring. It is ringing. Oh my sweet Lord. It. is. ringing.
"Welcome to Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" a real voice answered. A real voice. I had to make a decision and I had to make a decision quickly. I do not want to alert the Js that I am on the phone with Regis Philman. They'd sabotage it. I had to be cool, calm...I did not want to draw any attention to me whatsoever.
One of the Js was in the shower, so I couldn't (I could have, but didn't particularly want to) venture through the bathroom. So, like a gazelle, I sauntered into the bedroom, through the outside hallway, and climbed atop my bed. I scurried into the corner of my bed (by my pillow) and began whispering to THE Regis Philman.
"Hi!...I mean, Hello." I said excitedly.
"Welcome to Who Wants to be a Millionaire Hotline," Regis repeated.
....TO BE CONTINUED ...